Algerian Media vs. Egyptian Media: is the war of words over?

Algerian journalists, like their Egyptian counterparts, are continuing the war of words in the aftermath of the World Cup qualifying matches in Cairo and Khartoum. One might expect the leading French-language dailies in Algeria to offer a more nuanced perspective on the recent matches and the violent confrontations that followed, unfortunately a quick perusal of these newspapers reveals material just as inflammatory as the content in Egyptian media.

Most French-language Algerian newspapers report on their front pages today about the FIFA executive committee meeting in Cape Town. During this meeting they will examine the numerous confrontations off the field that tarnished both games and agree on possible sanctions against the Egyptians.
Journalist Ryad Djawed’s piece “FIFA risks its credibility,” published today in the daily “Le Jeune Independent” starts with a tantalizing first sentence that reads, “The Algerians and the lovers of fair play and football are anticipating an exemplary penalty against Egypt in response to the very serious slippages that occurred in Cairo against the Algerian delegation,” he writes, adding further in the article that “the disciplinary committee may increase the punishment of Egypt in order to restore order and fair play, which were completely trampled on by the Egyptian Football Federation.”

The Egyptian delegation may face a severe fine in response the lack of organization and security, which resulted in the stoning of the bus transporting the Algerian football team.

The journalist also threatens the credibility of the FIFA President Sepp Blatter and FIFA in general when he writes that “there is no doubt that compromise with violence will be costly, not only to Switzerland that will elect the new FIFA president in a few month, but also to the whole World Cup that will start in the upcoming months.”

Mahrez Ilias of the daily “Le Quotidien d’Oran” writes that the Algerians expect the committee in Cape Town to take radical measures against the Egyptians. “The Algerians now expect the icing on the cake, a sanction so severe that it will force the Egyptians to lower their heads forever before the Algerians.” This might not be the rhetoric one would expect from a respected newspaper mostly read by executives in Algeria, but it seems that the frenzy affects everyone regardless of their level of education.

The articles written following the matches between Egypt and Algeria contributed to an ideological crisis that now goes beyond football and dangerously verges on becoming a diplomatic incident.

The press in both countries have also dug into history to prove the other side’s ingratitude. “While Recalling the Blood Shed by Algeria in 1967 and 1973, the Sons of Chouhada (martyrs) Demand an Official Apology from Egypt,” is the title of an article written by Samir Leslous and published in the daily Liberté.  In a recent statement, the "Sons of the Chouhada" federation declared that “this outcry emanates as a response to a campaign of vilification against Algeria. It seems that Egypt has long forgotten the blood of the brave Algerian martyrs shed on the Egyptian soil in 1967 and 1973, and we demand a formal apology to the proud Algerian people."

This vengeful media campaign cast a spotlight on a traditionally unpopular sport: Handball. Cairo, the main organizer and host of the 19th African National Cup for handball, which is to be held next February, suddenly declined this responsibility. The Algerian press immediately took hold of the story, broadly denouncing the argument. “Egypt’s handball delegation refuses the presence of the Algerian team to the ANC in February,” writes Mokran Harhad in the daily newspaper Horizon.

Farah Maamar in Le Soir d’Algerie also comments on this last minute decision from the Egyptians. “Egypt wanted to intimidate us, thinking that we would not participate in the handball ANC in Cairo, thinking that we would be afraid for our lives and throw in the towel. But Algeria, true to its principles and strengthened by its courageous women and men, maintains its participation,” he writes. With much gusto, he adds that “this is a new humiliation for Egyptian sports, emphasized by the fact that the three maghreb countries offered to host the handball meeting, clearly offended Egypt.”


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